The rainforests are teeming with elephants, the ancient temples are home to raging monkeys and the locals are most friendly. Add beautiful beaches, towering karsts, and some of the best food in the world, and you have the ingredients for heaven. And in small towns in Thailand, you can have all kinds of experiences, from the seedy nightlife of Ao Nang to the natural escape of Pai. Choose your tour carefully to have a unique Thai experience for you.
Pai is populated by local dreadlocks, western hippies, and Muslims. This thriving resort town north of Chang Mai is nestled in a scenic valley topped with waterfalls and hiking trails. A large mosque in the center of town is the tallest building and the main street is lined with guest houses. The growing tourism industry has not yet ruined the serenity of the natural environment. Nearby Huai Nam Dang National Park, Pai Canyon, and WWII Memorial Bridge make Pai the perfect base for adventures in northern Thailand.
Hidden in the jungle, three hours north of Bangkok, is one of Thailand’s oldest cities: Lopburi. The city came to life during the Dvaravati period, between the 6th and 10th centuries. The ancient architecture of the Khmer and Ayuthaya empires can still be seen in the old part of the city. This is where you’ll spend most of your time, as Lopburi is famous for the huge and mischievous colony of crab-eating macaque monkeys that live in the ruins of the Old Town. You can even spend a day at Monkey Adventure Park shopping for food to feed your hardened friends. The city is also surrounded by fields of sunflowers and caves ready to be explored.
See also: Where to Stay in Kanchanaburi
Backpackers looking to escape the hectic pace of life in Bangkok flock here for peace by the riverside. Movie buffs flock to Kanchanaburi to see the Real Bridge over the River Kwai. The relaxed atmosphere of riverside Kanchanaburi hides a dark past, when the Japanese occupiers used prisoners of war from the United States and other allied countries to build a railroad to Burma (now Myanmar ). Museums and monuments dedicated to this history dot the small town, often referred to as the center of Thailand’s Far West.
Chaweng awaits you on the island of Ko Samui, in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand. Rent a scooter to get around this small paradise island which has an excellent tourist infrastructure. Chaweng’s long, white-sand beach gets very busy day and night, as restaurants and bars come alive as the sun sets on the azure waters. Do not lose sight of two small islands located next to the sand. There you will find a beautiful reef for snorkeling and the islands are within walking distance at low tide. As night falls, choose your poison: a loud club-style beach party or a laid-back, laid-back beach bar.
5. Karon hat
The white sands of Karon Beach creak under your feet. This three kilometer beach is located about 19 kilometers (12 miles) from Phuket Town and not too far from the famous Patong Beach. You won’t find any resorts here that claim the sand as private property, so there is more beach space per capita than almost anywhere else in Phuket. The beach is lined with houses and then there is a street. Across the street you’ll find all kinds of accommodation, from mega-resorts to hostels. You will see many Russian posters in the busy city streets among the t-shirt and food vendors.
6. Chiang Khan
In the heart of northeastern Thailand, Chiang Khan offers you the opportunity to swim in the Mekong. To get to the Gaeng Kut Kuu Pool, follow the road along the river that descends into the valley for a kilometer or two. If the riverbed is dry, makeshift restaurants await. Chiang Khan is popular with Thais on vacation for the wonderful view of the nearby Laos Mountains and the city’s famous pedestrian street. The street, closed to traffic, is lined with vendors, restaurants, bars, shops, yoga studios and boutiques. Make sure you have a guesthouse on top of a hill to take in the views of Laos on your own.
7. Chiang Saen
In the heart of northern Thailand and just south of the Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen is an ancient ghost town that comes to life. Chiang Saen, which was one of the most important cities in the Lanna Kingdom, has been sacked and conquered numerous times throughout history. Restocking began in 1900, but ruined fortified walls from a violent past can still be seen. Huge barges can be seen on the Mekong carrying fruit, auto parts and other goods from China to the sea. And Laos is just across the Mekong from this sleepy river city.
8. Ao Nang
Accommodation is high in this seaside town near Krabi in southern Thailand. Ao Nang’s nightlife is noisy and somewhat seedy, and tourists from all over the world are likely to be on a drunken road. But the city is cradled by limestone ravines and the beaches are also woven between these impressive pillars. If you fancy a private beach, the friendly locals will take you on long tail boats to the karst islands in the distance. There are many outdoor adventures in Ao Nang, from diving trips to mangrove adventures.
Lamphun was once the northernmost outpost of the ancient Mon Dvaravati kingdom. There is an old fort which houses ancient temples from when the city was an important defensive post for Queen Chama Thevi, one of Thailand’s most beloved rulers. The city does not promote or celebrate this ancient history too much, but it is quite a charming place, as it sits on the Mae Kuang River. The best attraction might be the 26 km scenic route. nearby Chang Mai, which allows tourists to contemplate the beautiful scenery of the river valley.
The thick rainforest of Kaeng Krachan National Park surrounds this border town with Myanmar. Phetchaburi is not too far from Bangkok, but you are unlikely to see crowds of tourists. Instead, you’ll see groups of Thai students on day trips to experience their own culture, as Phetchaburi is one of the most historic and cultured cities in the country. Traces of the Khmer, Sukhothai and Ayuthaya kingdoms can still be seen, with many artifacts still intact despite a violent history. The city stays asleep at night, giving you plenty of energy to enjoy the Gulf of Thailand and the jungle hiking trails during the day.